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|Today, Ariel Sharon is irrelevant
By Ariel Natan Pasko
Until Arafat's recent demise, Israel's feckless leader Ariel Sharon was wont to call Yasser Arafat "irrelevant". Sharon did it at every opportunity. Yet, Arafat was anything but irrelevant. He called all the shots in "Palestine," he held the purse strings, he turned on and off the terror tap at will, and everyone listened to him. So much, can't be said for Ariel Sharon today.
After the recent Karni terminal bombing, Ariel Sharon made an about face, (Is that a retreat? Or, a disengagement?), freezing all diplomatic relations with the newly elected Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, whom he just weeks ago praised as a man who Israel can do business with, and a moderate. Sharon put him in "Cherem" (isolation), just one step down from "irrelevant".
How long did that last?
True, the terror gangs aren't listening to Abbas any better than they did when he was PA Prime Minister in 2003 and called for an end to terror attacks (he calls it ending the "militarization" of the Intifada). True he specified inside the "green line," meaning "settlers" and soldiers are still targets. True, Abbas is still the same Holocaust-denying liar, intellectually dishonest and Arafat's fellow traveler for almost 50 years (he even campaigned on Arafat's celebrity and how he would continue in Arafat's path). True, most Palestinians still want to wipe out Israel and Abbas feeds their blood lust with the codeword "right of return," which he campaigned on preserving for them.
And true, many analysts and observers of the Middle East assume that Abbas won't get real control of the situation in the PA and Abbas himself has stated that to avoid a civil war in "Palestine," he doesn't intend to honor his commitments in the Roadmap, which states, "...undertake visible efforts on the ground to arrest, disrupt, and restrain individuals and groups conducting and planning violent attacks on Israelis anywhere...Palestinian Authority security apparatus begins sustained, targeted, and effective operations aimed at confronting all those engaged in terror and dismantlement of terrorist capabilities and infrastructure. This includes commencing confiscation of illegal weapons and consolidation of security authority, free of association with terror and corruption."
So, irrelevant might just be a good word to describe Abbas.
Except that much of the international community has been working very hard to "Kasher" him (i.e. praise Abbas as a moderate and peacemaker). He's relevant, because they (the world) want him to be. Bush, who went along with Sharon's "Cherem" on Arafat, has already invited Abbas to the White House. EU leaders have rejoiced that they now have a "moderate terrorist," clean-shaven and in a suit. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, can breath a sigh of relief that if Abbas comes to UN headquarters, he won't be "packing" as his predecessor was. Everyone is happy.
Which brings us to Sharon's nickname.
Sharon has gone against the Likud Central Committee a few times recently to pursue his Gaza Expulsion Plan, and in the process torn Likud apart. He's brought the "loser" Peres and his losing party, Labor, into a new government coalition, after having adopted the losing party's policies from the last elections.
While terrorism, rocket attacks, and the general attempt on the part of "Palestinians" to annihilate as many Jews as possible continues unabated, Sharon has insisted that he will carry out his "disengagement" plan this summer. Or, is that retreat under fire (something Sharon promised he wouldn't do)? Sharon still insists he plans to implement the left's (and Arafat's) "ethnic cleansing campaign" against the Jews in Gaza and Northern Samaria.
But, while Sharon continues to try to curry favor with world leaders by expelling Jews from Gaza, he's shooting himself in the foot, with his expanded military retaliations against "Palestinian" terror.
Sharon recently said, "The army and the security forces have been instructed to increase operational activity to stop terrorism and they will continue to do so without restrictions - I emphasize without restrictions - so long as the Palestinians don't lift a finger. The operational level has been instructed to take any step necessary to stop the terrorism."
But increased military activity against terror targets (rightly justified), and putting Abbas on the spot (he should be hung like Eichmann), won't do much for Sharon's image in western capitals.
And contradictory positions (called flip-flops in Israel), "Abbas is good," then "Abbas is bad,"then "Abbas is good again," within weeks, (when we all heard Abbas' campaign rants against Israel "the Zionist enemy" as he called it), won't help Sharon's image in Israel either.
Can Sharon pull it off?
Can Sharon claim to be for "peace," and to want to get back to the "diplomatic process," yet hold Abbas' hand over the fire, and start a major new military offensive in Gaza, on the one hand, and at the same time continue to prepare to expel thousands of Jews from their homes, in spite of the growing opposition to his plan from Israelis?
Public calls to disobey expulsion orders in the Israeli army are growing daily. According to reports, the "Defensive Shield" organization has now signed up over 10,000 "refusniks," soldiers who will refuse to comply with the army's expulsion orders if called on to carry them out. "Right-Wing Extremists," "Hill Top Youth," even leaders from the Yesha Settlers Council (considered moderates among the "Jewish settlers"), are preparing for massive civil disobedience in the coming months to stop the expulsions. The recent events at Yitzhar, when the evacuation authorities tried to visit the town, only to be met by massive civil resistance, blocking their way, are being held up as a model for things to come. Threats of "civil war" are ringing in the air.
Not long ago, in a meeting with Avi Dichter, the head of Israel's version of the FBI (the Shin Bet or Shabak, meaning the General Security Service), the Yesha Council people told Dichter they no longer could control the "street," things had gone too far. So who knows where things will lead to?
Recently, top security officials have simultaneously expressed their concerns that given aggressive resistance from the "settlers," (volunteers will come from around Israel and even the Diaspora to resist), they might not be able to carry out the expulsions, and that an Israeli military withdrawal from Gaza would immediately endanger over 40 towns in the Negev area, from Kassam rockets, with Ashdod, Ashkelon, and Kiryat Gat coming under fire in the near future.
So what's the point of the expulsions and withdrawals?
Events are moving quickly, and they seem to be taking on a life of their own. The Quartet (US, EU, UN and Russia) i.e. the world, want a Palestinian state, no matter what. The Jews are divided, but a strong anti-expulsion resistance movement is growing rapidly. With almost a third of Likud MKs voting against the proposed coalition, the new Israeli government coalition of Likud, Labor, and two small religious parties, was dependent on the votes of the far-left Yahad party and two Arab MKs to come to power. Sharon is loosing control.
My prognosis, it's going to be a long hot summer!
It's debatable if Arafat was ever irrelevant, but Abbas seems to be. To this list, I think we can now add Ariel Sharon.
Today, Ariel Sharon is irrelevant!
Ariel Natan Pasko is an independent analyst & consultant. He has a Master's Degree in International Relations & Policy Analysis. His articles appear regularly on numerous news/views and think-tank websites, in newspapers, and can be read at www.geocities.com/ariel_natan_pasko (c) 2005/5765 Pasko
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